Wings Over Houston, 2019



The Wings Over Houston Airshow is an annual, privately operated show taking place at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas during the month of October. It was my first time attending the airshow on October 19th and 20th but one I have had my eye on for awhile.

Although there is a typical military draw like the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, the Warbird portion of the show could stand on its own. Many of our treasured Warbirds reside in the state of Texas, on this airfield at the Lone Star Flight Museum and the Collings Foundation, or a short ride from a neighboring southern state.

There were two B-17s on the ramp, one strictly static, three B-25s, including the PBJ “Devil Dog”, two C-45s, two P-51 Mustangs, two Corsairs, two Bearcats and notable one-offs, P-63 King Cobra, Spitfire, Hellcat and Tigercat, all of which participated in the show. Notable statics included an F-4 Phantom, a TA-4 Skyhawk, an F-100 Super Sabre, a NASA T-38, a Mig 15, a Mig 21 and a Grumman Goose.

Military acts included the aforementioned Thunderbirds, the F-35A Demonstration Team, and an EA-18G Growler demonstration. There were also local missions from the Detachment of F-16s from the Tulsa Air Guard, a B-52 flyby on Saturday, a Coast Guard helicopter rescue simulation and an MQ-9 Reaper taxi past which was supposed to be a flyby but denied due to weather.

The weather for the weekend was a mixed bag. Cool, breezy and gray leading up to the weekend, warming up with variable cloudiness, actually a little too much cloudiness, and some Sunday morning fog. The airshow runway is a 17/35 so early morning sun is frontal and slightly right, improving as the day goes on to behind the crowd. It was a well attended show.

At the beginning of each day, the Warbird ramp was open to the public and the flying got started with a combination of Sean D. Tucker, Matt Chapman or Debby Rihn-Harvey.

It was a farewell airshow for the career of Chapman and the Oracle Challenger III of Tucker, which is bound for the National Air and Space Smithsonian.

After a series of aerobatic aircraft and the departure of some F-16s, Tora! Tora! Tora! got started with their seven aircraft and the addition of the “Texas Raiders” B-17 and some ground vehicles depicting Oahu traffic.

It is always an entertaining and smoky show as the ground crew “blows up” the airfield. The additions were a welcome detail as “Texas Raiders” flew by with one wheel hung up. “…What a way to enter a war”.

The Warbird show continued from there. “Texas Raiders” remained airborne as a mass, coordinated launch occurred starting with trainers and liaisons to bombers and then the fighters. Most of the aircraft flew both days with a few exceptions. The flybys were left traffic but as the bombers and fighters took over the airspace, some right to left traffic was inserted and the final passes were a left to right topside photo pass.

Naval Warbirds were here in force. Including “Devil Dog”, eight Navy aircraft were in the air at the same time. It was the most representation of Navy Warbirds I have ever experienced. One pass featured a dissimilar six ship with the two Corsairs, the two Bearcats, the Tigercat and the Hellcat. They broke into pairs, the third of which was the Tigercat and Hellcat. Later in the show, the Tigercat and one of the Bearcats entered the showbox in formation before splitting off into solo demonstrations.

In early afternoon, the first jet to participate was the EA-18G Growler from VAQ-129, the “Vikings”. The Legacy Flight came first with a Corsair, then the Growler made a series of high speed passes creating a lot of vapor.

The other solo jet demonstration was the F-35A. It was the third show I had seen them at and I got to know much of the crew this season. There will be no carry over as the team will move from Luke to Hill Air Force Base for 2020. The demonstration is always a crowd pleaser. Loud, fast and vaporous. P-47 “Tarheel Hal” had launched earlier and performed in the Heritage Flight.

Team Oracle performed and in the final slot before the Thunderbirds, the Spitfire flew a solo routine. The Thunderbirds closed the show.

Wings over Houston had a lot to like and I had a great time despite a few challenges. I wish to thank Mr. Scott Tims in handling my media access and I hope to return some time in the future.

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